Pete Clemons takes a look at the musical career of one of the early Coventry R & B musicians, from his early days in the Beat Preachers to being an author and much more. Published recently in the Coventry Telegraph.
Preacher, author, producer.
BORN in Harrogate during 1944 Ian Stuart Colman moved to Rugby after leaving school in 1961 where he gained an apprenticeship as a draughtsman with AEI (Associated Electrical Industries).
Stuart, as he became known, had been born into a strong musical background. His father had been a band leader and his mother sang in a choir. Despite this Stuart was influenced by rock 'n' roll and, so I have been told, amassed a tremendous record collection. That early influence would continue to be a feature throughout his career.
It was not long after he moved south that he met up with like colleagues who set about forming a band which they called The Cataracts who played many local gigs, in particular, at the Co-op Hall in Nuneaton.
The Beat Preachers were formed in 1963 with a line up of Geoff Parson (guitar), Stuart Colman (bass), Graham Rolaston (drums), Forbes Merrigan (lead guitar) and Jackie McCormick (vocals), having been created out of two other groups - The Cataracts and The Boot Hill Six. They would then go on to become one of the more popular and relatively successful beat bands on the Coventry circuit.
Despite Stuart having an early interest in rock 'n' roll, as a group, The Beat Preachers found their musical influences came from rhythm and blues while their style came from the newly emerging 'Mod' scene that was beginning to develop.
The above line-up continued for almost the entire existence of the band until Jackie McCormick left toward the end of 1965. His eventual replacement was saxophonist Tony Britnell, later of Jigsaw, but midway through 1966 the band split permanently when Forbes Merrigan quit and Stuart Colman joining Pinkerton's Assorted Colours.
The Beat Preachers, although popular in Coventry, were not con-fined here and they regularly visited places like Nottingham, Leicester and Northampton and picked up a reputation when they became known as the Midlands version of The Rolling Stones. But they also played many gigs in and around Coventry with The Parkstone Club being a particular favourite venue for them. They also supported The Who at the Matrix Hall in 1965.
The Beat Preachers did release a single on the Pye Record label (Pye 7N 15961) during September 1965, however it was under the pseudonym of The Caribbean. The disc received good reviews but apparent bad management and even worse promotion meant that the record failed to chart.
The songs that made up the single, titled 'Inside Out' with the B-side of 'Up My Street', were unusual at that time because they had an early reggae feel to them. The song writing sources were equally curious, and presumably tongue in cheek, as they were credited to 'Benn/Sherriff', I assume after the two notable people from Rugby's historic past, George Benn and Lawrence Sherriff.
After his stint with the Pinkerton's, Stuart Colman then joined forces with other band members to form Flying Machine. Flying Machine was, of course, the band that had formed after the Pinkertons originally split and who had a huge hit record in America. Following that venture Stuart returned to England during 1971. Soon after his return Stuart settled in London and joined rock 'n' roll revival band Hurricane as bass player.
This band was also made up of pianist Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, Dave Wendells on guitar and drummer Carlo Little who had all been with Screaming Lord Sutch's band The Savages at some time or other during the early 1960s.
In 1976, Stuart was involved with organising a march to the BBC. This was in protest about the lack of rock 'n' roll music on BBC Radio One. The outcome, to his own surprise, was in him being given his own weekly show on Radio 1. Part of the radio show's remit was to include live music and one of the early sessions was by Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets. Due to the unavailability of the show's usual 'live session' producer, Stuart was asked to cover this role as well.
It went down a storm and the popularity of that show and that particular live session led to Stuart being headhunted by Epic Records to act as producer for Shakin' Stevens who, by now, had assembled a new band.
The impact of this partnership was immediate as 'Shaky' secured hits with 'Hot Dog' and 'Marie, Marie' followed by a string of number ones that included 'This Old House' and 'Green Door'.
This was a tremendously busy period for Stuart. Not only was he working on various Radio 1 shows but his production skills were been used by a great deal of artists and this culminated when, during 1982, he was voted the top singles producer of the year by Music Week magazine.
He even managed to write an excellent book about rock 'n' roll and those that played an important role in it as well as who was keeping the flame burning at that time. It was titled 'They Kept on Rocking' and well worth seeking out.
The hectic schedule and the production successes continued throughout the 1980s with his involvement in releases by Billy Fury, The Crickets, Phil Everly and Little Richard.
Such was the regard Stuart was held as a producer that he was asked by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to produce the very first Comic Relief record for The Young Ones, in 1986, which also featured Cliff Richard. The result being that a remake of the song 'Living Doll' rose to the top of the charts and raised an awful lot of money for charity.
1986 also saw Stuart open his own 'Master Rock' studios in London. Customers over the next few years included Jeff Beck, U2, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Soul II Soul.
Stuart was then invited to join Capital Radio when they re-launched their station in 1988. He remained there until 1995 playing rock 'n' roll oldies. In parallel, he was also running a similar show for the BBC at their Radio Solent station.
And then came the inevitable TV work as Stuart was invited to produce major music specials that involved the likes of Natalie Cole, T'Pau and Meat Loaf.
The mid-1990s took Stuart's love of American music to Nashville Tennessee where he produced for country rock artists such as Faith Hill, Nancy Griffith, Linda Gail Lewis and plenty of others.
However, life was not all good as in 2002 tragedy struck when Stuart was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. It took a great deal of treatment and tremendous resolve to battle back from it. But recover he did and he is now completely clear of the disease.
Nowadays Stuart still produces, is still involved with rock 'n' roll in which he writes for magazines, works as a consultant for Ace records and shares his time between Manhattan in New York and the Forest of Dean.
More on the Beat Preachers (and some of the other bands) in hobo A to Z of Coventry Bands - here
Ian Crawford adds -
When the Beat Preachers moved on with Stuart Coleman his old band, The Cataracts, comprising Roger Meakin - Guit/vocals, Mick Pearson - Guitar, Johnny Armitage - drums and Colin ? -bass played Woolpack Beat Club and other venues in the Rugby area.We were all AEI apprentices & contemporaries of Stuart Coleman c.1963-64